Courageous Discipleship

Our strategic plan calls on us to invest in the vitality of our faith communities. In 2023, we committed to making significant progress in the work of revitalization by:

  • Continuing to engage congregations with revitalization strategies, including the start of a third cohort of 5 congregations in Tending Our Soil, all congregations experiencing clergy leadership transition, and those seeking diocesan support.
  • Taking the next steps toward launching or relaunching three new worshiping communities by identifying the first two geographical areas in which to start and determining the staff, teams, finances, and other resources needed to begin.
  • Establishing a Committee on Black Church Ministries whose purpose is to implement revitalization strategies specifically designed for historically Black or majority Black congregations, assign a senior staff member and support the Committee in providing resources to congregations.
  • Taking the initial steps to develop a stewardship strategy for our facilities and finances by identifying partners who can help us assess the burden facing parishes and think of ways to alleviate the constraints of building concerns.

Here, we share the work we undertook in each of the four areas, the work of our regional deans and dean of chaplains, and a brief overview of what we hope to accomplish in the area of Revitalization in 2024.

Tending Our Soil with the Rev. Shaneequa Brokenleg
Our Regional Deans with Bishop Mariann and the Rev. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery
Our new church plant in Bowie, MD -- The Well

Revitalization Strategies, Tending Our Soil, and Support for Parishes in Transition

With the launching of the third and final cohort of the Tending Our Soil Initiative, we now have 26 congregations engaged in intentional and robust revitalization work. We continued to lean into partnering with those in and outside The Episcopal Church working with MissionInsite, Rev. Dr. Doug Powe from The Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesleyan Seminary, Rev. Timoth Sylvia from Convergence
Digital Ministry Fellows and Canon Steve Carslen and Kate Bond of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma.

Other activities included:

  • Designed Cohort (groups of 3) Labs for the Class of 2021 to engage the congregations more intentionally through learning segments and case studies. These sessions are led by the coaches of each cohort.
  • Collaborated with the Holmes Coaching Group to bring Coach Resource Labs to our cadre of coaches to help them improve their skills and support one another.
  • Began the initial work with a church to adapt learning modules for use with churches not in the Tending Our soil program.
  • Continued working with Trinity Episcopal Mission, Upper Marlboro as they engage in a revitalization process.
  • Worked with 9 parishes on their Parish Vitality Assessments for their transition process.
  • Have three clergy serving as mentors in the Thriving in Ministry program at VTS which creates novel ways for clergy to identify what they need to learn to flourish in their vocation.

Launching New Faith Communities: The Well in Bowie, Maryland

We hired and onboarded the Rev. Rondesia Jarrett-Schell as the Bowie Church Planter (read her article: Church Planting: Community Presence, Connection, and Sharing the Good News)

Since September, Rev. Jarrett-Schell has had 25 conversations out and about in the community, has formed an advisory board of 7 members and held the first Prayer and Action event with 5 participants. As of January 2024, she has over 100 followers on TikTok (follow her at IamthePastor), with the highest number of views for one of her videos reaching 980. You can also follow what’s happening with The Well Community on Instagram.

Other church plant activities:

  • The Diocese cosponsored the second LOGOS Poetry Collective event, “An Evening of Spiritual Nourishment Through Encounters with Poetry” event to connect with rising generations in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC and briefly launched a poetry meet up as a follow up to the event
  • A small group from the diocese interested in church planting met with Rev. Roderigo Cruz, pastor of the recently planted Nett Church which now has four campuses in Gwinnett, Georgia.

Committee on Black Church Ministries

Upon the recommendation of the Task Force on Black Ministry at the 2023 Diocesan Convention calling for the establishment of a permanent commission for Black Ministries in the Diocese of Washington, Bishop Mariann convened the Committee on Black Church Ministries.

Chaired by the Rev. Ricardo Shepherd, the Committee on Black Church Ministries gathered for an inaugural meeting in June 2023 and developed a mission statement that further identified specific objectives for the committee. These specific objectives highlighted the need for two subcommittees to be established which would explore (1) education and training and (2) Black Church ministry initiatives addressing some of the stark challenges of Black churches in the diocese. These subcommittees are chaired by Keith Roachford and Kay Pierson respectively. Currently, attention is directed toward the identification of pertinent gatherings of Black clergy and laity that will provide impactful information to support Black churches and toward the identification of tools and techniques that will enable challenged Black churches to become self-sufficient and thrive in their respective communities.

Read the Diocesan Bulletin article announcing Black Church Ministry Committee members

Stewardship Strategy for Parish Facilities and Finances

As part of the diocesan strategic plan, and specifically the initiative to revitalize churches to grow the Jesus movement, the diocese set a goal to “develop a stewardship strategy for our facilities and finances so that parishes are not constrained by building concerns.”

In 2023, the Rev. Andrew Walter, Canon to the Ordinary and Chief Operating Officer, led the work of developing a Stewardship Strategy for Parish Facilities and Finances with input from leaders around the church and real property professionals. In the fall, an initial draft of the strategy was circulated to Diocesan Council and focused on the three ways to transform a church building from a liability into an asset: increasing rental income, redeveloping church property, and selling the building/property. Canon Andrew made a presentation about the Stewardship Strategy at the 2024 Diocesan Convention.

Watch the presentation | Read the text of Canon Andrew’s presentation

Regional Deans and Dean of Chaplains

Our ongoing commitment to congregational vitality includes the intentional fostering of strong ties between congregations, within regions, and across the diocese. Regional deans serve a crucial role in strengthening relationships, guiding collaborative efforts, and acting as a point of connection between diocesan staff and the regions and within the leadership of the regions themselves.

This year, our regional deans:

  • Met regularly with both diocesan staff and regional leaders
  • Convened meetings with regional parish clergy
  • Created opportunities for regional collaboration including a seminar on Gun Violence prevention, clergy retreats, and Creation Care projects.
  • Supported parishes in their transition process.
  • Served as an integral communications link within regions and around the diocese

Dean transitions:

  • John Kellogg new dean of South DC
  • Marilyn Jenkins new co-dean of Central DC

Dean of Chaplains, the Rev. Lisa Barrowclough, collaborated with diocesan social media team and our Episcopal school chaplains on an Advent calendar featuring artwork by students and thematic questions aimed to invite people into a space of expectant waiting. View a handful of the posts: December 4, December 10, December 12, December 18, Christmas Eve.

Courageous Discipleship and Revitalization in 2024

We will adapt the Tending Our Soil curriculum and revitalization resources for increased flexibility and widespread use while we continue to engage and support ongoing cohorts, ensuring each congregation makes progress in the program.

We will implement the stewardship strategy for parish facilities and finances by making real estate professionals available to consult with congregations interested in leasing space or redeveloping property; sharing information and resources, such as template rental agreements, on a dedicated page of the EDOW website; and both engaging and supporting congregations that need to consider selling or redeveloping their buildings and properties.

We will identify and work with a subset of congregations within up to two regions for diocesan engagement in shaping a plan for strategic ministry collaboration and resource sharing.

We will develop and grow the Well, the diocesan church plant in Bowie, introducing organic forms of prayerful gatherings. In addition, we will support other emerging faith communities around the diocese.